What Are the Most Common Causes of Lightheadedness?

Side effects of certain prescription medications may include lightheadedness.
Drinking alcohol may cause lightheadedness.
A sudden drop in blood pressure can cause lightheadedness.
Nausea can accompany lightheadedness.
Heart problems can cause lightheadedness.
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  • Written By: A.E. Freeman
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2014
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There are a few causes of lightheadedness, or dizziness. Usually, lightheadedness occurs when a person does not get enough blood into his brain. One of the common causes of lightheadedness is a sudden drop in blood pressure. Other causes of lightheadedness include heart problems and the common cold and flu as well as a loss of blood.

When a person feels lightheaded, he may feel as though he is about to faint. Although lightheadedness is a type of dizziness, it is not the same as vertigo, which is the feeling that the world is moving around a person when it is in fact not. The feeling of lightheadedness can be accompanied by nausea and fainting as well as clammy skin and paleness.

Sudden shifts in posture that result in a loss of blood flow to the head are common causes of lightheadedness. A person can feel dizzy and lightheaded after standing up quickly or after sitting up from a lying position. The likelihood of lightheadedness after getting up too quickly increases as a person gets older. Getting up more slowly or returning to the reclined position can reduce the lightheaded feeling.

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A person may also feel lightheaded when she is ill. The cold and flu commonly cause lightheadedness, as do allergies. Vomiting and fevers can also lead to lightheadedness, but the feeling will lessen as the person becomes well. In some cases, lightheadedness is caused by drugs, including nicotine and alcohol, as well as by certain prescription drugs, including beta blockers and ACE inhibitors.

Other causes of lightheadedness are more concerning. A person who has a heart condition, such as arrhythmia, may experience lightheadedness. Other heart conditions that can cause lightheadedness include cardiomyopathy, heart attack, and stroke. Usually, if a person's lightheadedness is caused by a heart problem, he will also faint, have pain in the chest, and a heart that is beating quickly. If that is the case, he should go to the doctor right away.

A loss of blood can also cause lightheadedness. In some cases, a person can feel lightheaded due to the loss of blood during her menstrual cycle, while in other cases the loss of blood is a serious problem, such as bleeding from a severe wound. A person can have internal bleeding and feel lightheaded, but otherwise not know that she is bleeding. If a person is bleeding internally, the first signs may be lightheadedness and a feeling of fatigue.

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anon318789
Post 12

Today while looking for coconut syrup in the store and considering phoning a friend who was laid up in hospital after being hit by a car on his bicycle and searching through my telephone numbers on my telephone, I suddenly felt the blood rush from my brain and so I knelt down rather than falling.

Later on, about 20 minutes later, I felt a pain in my shoulder. I wondered if this is either my heart meridian or tri heater meridian. Anyone "up" on acupuncture enough to read what this all means?

mylife5464
Post 11

This is very long and I apologize but the beginning has to be included or no one will know how it has built up to the lightheaded part.

Here is one for you. For the past 11 months I have done nothing except get up in the morning and stay on my feet pretty much until bedtime. My siblings chose to leave me alone with this. I take care of my 80 year old mother.

Routine now: I do all I can physically to help her until my husband gets home from work. He does all the cooking and dishes and goes where we need him to go. The antibiotic the doc gave me did not work. I started taking a new one last night. I actually feel better. But since March, I have lost 44 pounds. I did weigh around 140 which is perfect for my size and I am down to 92. I eat so that isn't it. And other part. If I get up from sitting, I have a two minute window to get things done. At the two minute point, if not sitting or lying down, I pass out. I have bruises in places I didn't know I even had. I literally have 0 fat or muscle and 0 iron. I have been taking iron for two weeks now, but it isn't fixing it. I was anemic from the age of 11 until 19. This is not anemia.

As soon as I get up, instantly my head will get cold and then it moves down through the rest of my body and by that time, I am hot, not cold. Doctors did tests, and one particular blood test showed my sed rate was almost as high as possible. (Another added vitamin is potassium). My doctor is at the point where he doesn't know what to do, and that is not a good thing. Any ideas would be very welcome!

miriam98
Post 10

@allenJo - There are many dizziness causes. Obviously any sort of illness would be a prime candidate in my opinion. However, I’d also like to point out that you can get dizzy from an improper diet.

For example, a few years back I went on one of these all fruit and vegetable diets to try to lose weight. Well, I definitely lost weight, but I experienced another side effect as well. I would get dizzy and lightheaded as the day rolled on.

I don’t think those kinds of diets are good for your health. You need to get the B vitamins for your brain and if all you’re doing is eating fruits and vegetables, you are not getting those vitamins.

allenJo
Post 9

I’ve had what I thought were symptoms of feeling light headed. I remember one time when I was at the library, I was stooping down to look at a row of books.

I had been down for quite a few minutes and then I suddenly got up. I felt dizzy immediately, like I was about to fall down or as if the room was spinning. I don’t know if I had vertigo symptoms or general dizziness but it was certainly disorienting.

I don’t know what caused it really, but I have heard that problems in your inner ear could create a sense of imbalance. Perhaps I need to have my ear cleaned or something like that.

Oceana
Post 8

I got very lightheaded while taking a clinical study drug to treat kidney disease. Along with the dizzy feeling, my blood pressure shot up, and I got very shaky.

I could hold out my hands and watch them vibrating involuntarily. It looked as though I must be very cold, but I wasn't. I actually was hot. I truly felt like I could pass out at any moment, and I had trouble standing up and walking straight.

I had to stop taking the drug, much to my disappointment. The researchers had not anticipated lightheadedness as a side effect, and though I may be a rare case, they are going to include it in their list of side effects when the drug becomes available to the public.

kylee07drg
Post 7

I have always been extremely susceptible to the effects of alcohol, so I get lightheaded after just one drink. It's a nice feeling, as my inhibitions and cares seem light as air, and my mood changes to carefree. I feel like I'm floating.

My friends think it is funny that I get lightheaded after one small glass of wine or a mixed drink. They tell me that I'll never get fat from the calories in drinks, because I never will be able to drink enough to matter!

I do get a bit dizzy at the same time. I never drink and drive, no matter how small the glass of alcohol I have had, because this same light feeling that makes me happy impairs my senses.

wavy58
Post 6

@seag47 – I have never had a panic attack, but I do get very lightheaded when I'm nervous. I have a fear of speaking in front of people and having all the attention focused on me, and when I have to address a crowd, I feel as if I might float away or faint.

When I'm waiting to get up in front of a crowded room, my palms get really sweaty. My heart starts to race, and once I stand up, the lightheadedness sets in. I have to grip the podium tightly to maintain my composure.

My boss tells me that this feeling will go away over time, as I gain experience. I don't see how that can ever happen. People don't get over their fear of heights by climbing mountains!

seag47
Post 5

I feel very lightheaded when I am about to have a panic attack. I feel detached from my body, and reality comes into question.

When I get that lightheaded feeling, I know that I have to quickly get a grip. It helps to lower my head between my knees so that the blood can rush to it. I try to breathe deeply and slowly, also.

Thankfully, I don't have these attacks much anymore. My lightheadedness these days is usually caused by too much yard work, and that is much easier to control.

Mykol
Post 4

Usually the first indication that I am getting a migraine is feeling dizzy and lightheaded. If I don't get it under control soon enough, this also leads to nausea and vomiting.

I don't know why an oncoming migraine can be the cause of dizziness and lightheadedness, but this is usually the first trigger point for me.

I never know when this is going to hit. It usually starts out barely noticeable, but as the day goes on becomes more intense.

If I don't take something for it, I will have a full blown migraine the next day. My doctor told me to begin taking something at the first sign of these symptoms so the headache won't be so severe.

When someone is experiencing severe lightheadedness, it can be very debilitating. You don't feel very steady on your feet, and the best thing you can do is lie down until the symptoms go away.

andee
Post 3

@bagley79 - I am glad your grandpa ended up being OK. What I find interesting is that one of the medications I was taking for my heart caused me to have lightheadedness.

I was prescribed a beta blocker because of symptoms of angina and heart palpitations. There is a long history of heart disease in my family, so I was not surprised by this.

The beta blocker was supposed to help lower my blood pressure so my heart wouldn't have to work so hard. In the few days I took this medication, it did help with my angina, but I had several spells of lightheadedness.

When I talked to my doctor about it, he said this was often a common side effect, and ended up giving me something different to try.

bagley79
Post 2

I happened to be eating lunch with my grandparents when my grandpa had a heart attack. He was taking some medication for his heart, and had been complaining that morning of having dizzy spells.

As we were sitting there eating lunch he said he felt very lightheaded and was going to lay down. He had a heart attack right there at the table.

Fortunately he survived this and made it to the hospital alive. He ended up having heart surgery, and even though I was young I still remember this very clearly.

My grandma said he had never complained of feeling lightheaded before that morning, so it must have had something to do with his circulation before having his heart attack.

sunshined
Post 1

As I have gotten older I have noticed some episodes of lightheadedness. Usually this happens if I make a sudden change in movement with my head.

The first time I noticed it was when I was outside gardening. I was bending down pulling some weeds and had my head towards the ground.

When I suddenly stood up, I felt very lightheaded. I have found the best way to prevent this is to keep my head as level as possible and not to move so quickly when I change positions.

I know there are some serious lightheadedness causes, so I am thankful mine is not serious and doesn't happen very often. It can be a strange feeling the first few times it happens. It never lasts very long, but I just have to give my body a chance to equalize again.

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